I know that it's hard to believe, but we've reached the last blog update for January, and with it, the last of the questions about In The Cards! Don't fret, though ... I have plenty of other things planned for the weeks to follow. Let's wrap up January in style, shall we? Before I do, though, I'd like to give one last thank-you to Twitter user and fellow author @simmeringmind for generating this list of questions ... I hope you've all enjoyed reading these posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them!
What advice have you been given that made your WIP better? I admit, I don't remember who I heard it from, first, but when I was first beginning this draft in November of 2014, I was told by several people to not use flashbacks until the readers had a chance to know and care about the characters involved in the present, as they'll be seen for most of the story. I had originally planned to intersperse the novel with scenes of Ral growing up with his uncle, Duncan O'Dailigh ... but it turned out that not a single one was necessary.
What advice have you ignored, because you know best? This is the third full overhaul of this particular story. When I was in the midst of the second, a family member said, "Shouldn't you move on from this set of characters and write something new?" ... I think that says it all.
Who has encouraged you during the writing process? SO many wonderful people - family, friends, fellow authors. My patient fiancee, Laurel, deserves the most credit for understanding when I'd come home and say "SHH! Wait, I need to write this down." (To be fair, she also got the free entertainment of watching me react to my own writing.)
Why do you love your WIP's genre? I love In The Cards because, really, it doesn't have a genre. I bill it on Twitter as supernatural fiction, but really, it has something for everyone. It's a love story, a murder mystery, a thriller, a horror novel... I can't pigeonhole it any easier than I could put a genre on life, as a whole.
Share a favorite image that reminds you of your novel: I have several, actually. I've put them all into what some fellow writers call a "Novel Aesthetic", a collage of images which fit the themes and atmosphere of a novel.
Describe a character relationship that you love in the story: I don't want to choose just one, but if I had to, it would probably be the friendship between one of my protagonists, Ral O'Dailigh, and his best friend and business partner, June Slovich. Theirs is the kind of friendship that's stood the test of time. They're above holding grudges, or walking on eggshells: they tell things to one another like they are, and even when they're angry at each other, it doesn't last long.
Why are you passionate about sharing this story? It's the first story I ever wrote that was both wholly mine, and worthy of sharing. (The very first story has a lot of remodeling to do, but it gets a bit of a cameo in In The Cards, just the same). Some of these characters have followed me through my life for over 15 years, and they're very dear to me. Letting them out into the world at last feels like watching them leave home.
Why do its themes come from your heart? This answer ties in a little bit with the answer to the next question. With both of my novels so far, the themes have surprised me by unintentionally correlating with things that have been on my mind. Where From the Desk of Buster Heywood is about finding your own voice and standing up for yourself, In the Cards teaches its heroes that sometimes that little intuitive voice inside knows more than you give it credit for, and that help can always be found if you have the strength to ask.
What are some things that writing this story has taught you? I had used a plot outline for Buster, but In the Cards was the novel that took using outlining as a tool to the next level. With three protagonists to juggle, I wanted to make sure that they each got equal time and attention. I got four colors of Post-It notes and assigned one to each protagonist, with the 4th reserved for minor characters or group scenes. Then I put a scene on each note and stuck them in a place where I could see it while I worked. This gave me a visual gauge of who had the most attention, and let me rearrange scenes so that I didn't focus on one character for too long. It also doubled as a progress meter: as I finished each scene, I'd remove the sticky note. It worked like a charm, and I'm refining the tactic for next year's tale.
That's the end of the WIP Challenge! I'm looking at using the A-Z Blog Challenge next to shake things up, and I have a guest blog in the wings for a colleague of mine ... so please stay tuned! Also, if you haven't already, I encourage you to subscribe to my mailing list, where I share things that don't show up here or on social media! Have a great week, and I'll see you all here again next Thursday!
Hello, everyone! For the penultimate round of questions about In the Cards, the focus lies mainly on the senses ... so fire up your imagination and get ready for some atmosphere!
Is there an animal you love in your book? The abnormally large weasel with glowing eyes that Troy finds in the woods (and no, I'm not telling you any more than that).
Some sights to see: Hand-painted murals, the pristine halls of Aviario Regional Hospital, a carefully restored Victorian mansion, a picture-perfect small New England town park, visions from the past laid over the future like old film, a comfortable old neighborhood diner, and of course, the otherworldly glow of magic.
Some sounds to be heard: "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles. Jazz music. Thready, tired coughing. The scrape of claws against wood. Whistling tea kettles. A child's rhyming song amid a thunderstorm.
Some scents smelled: Burnt coffee. Incense and herbs. Black tea and licorice. Old car vinyl. Ozone and damp leaves. Memory and neglect. Biscuit dough, laundry detergent, and Aqua Net. Also, this gem from Beatrice: "Don't take this the wrong way, April, but: you smell like my high school science classroom."
Some tastes or flavors shown: Coffee ... lots of coffee. Cherry Coke. The sour, dry taste of fear. Homemade blueberry pie. A leftover carton of lo mein. Plenty of comfort food ... and at least five cans of cheap iced tea.
Some touches or textures: Worn, well-used velvet. The crisp starch of a lab coat. An ancient silk comforter. The knot of fabric at the back of a blindfold. A "hug magnet" sweater. Wet, squelching mud. The near-electric jolt of a circle of power.
You'd love for your book to be made into a movie/TV show/radio drama/etc because...: I've always seen the stories of Aviario play out in my head in a very cinematic fashion. Dream casts aside, I'd love to see what production designers do with locations like The Balefires, Madie's Diner, Louise's sanctuary, or the lobby of St. Dymphna's. (Brief tangent: if you want to see some truly rich sets, watch any movie that Bo Welch has been a production designer on. I bet you'll recognize some favorites on that list.)
What is the most epic thing about your WIP? I fully introduce The Organization: a group of people whose actions, both direct and indirect, weave through every single book in the series. I guarantee that anyone who rereads "From the Desk of Buster Heywood" once this book comes out will see a few scenes in a new light. I don't dare say too much about them here, yet, but I promise you, Janus and his employees are beyond compare.
Subscribers to my Friends of Aviario mailing list have already met the Townie to beat all Townies, Lieutenant Sam Weldyn. I thought it was about time you all did, too...
As much as he took pride in his ability to adapt, Sam couldn’t help an affinity for the little things which stood the test of time. The only exception to that rule, he decided, pulling up behind the ambulance at the back doors of Aviario Regional Hospital, was the way people tended to hover around incidents.
“Like seagulls outside a god damned Burger King,” he groused, killing the engine and climbing out of the cruiser.
The two EMTs in the wagon met him near the back doors. One, tall and thin with a sharp nose and a mop of curly black hair, stood by as a stocky brunette with a round chin and side-swept bangs glanced out at the knot of people milling on the sidewalk with open disapproval.
“Hey, Sam,” the brunette said. “You mind giving us a hand so that we can get this guy inside and downstairs?”
“On it.” Sam raised his voice to what Troy had dubbed Crowd Control Level and turned toward the small assembly of rubberneckers. “Scuse me, folks! If I could have your attention, plea-se.” He bit the last word into two syllables for emphasis, then waited until most of their eyes were on him before continuing, smooth and swift. “Mr. Phelps, Mr. Bartlett and myself would greatly appreciate it if you you’d all find yourselves an alternate form of afternoon entertainment. If, by any chance, you’re having trouble with the concept of respecting our passenger, here, just take a second and imagine if it was yourself, or a loved one. Thank you very much.”
Cowed, the onlookers shuffled away, and Sam stepped back to let the EMTs open the ambulance and ease the gurney out onto the pavement. The impact jostled the body under its covering, and Sam scowled as he watched one of its arms slide off its chest. “Mother’a God,” he breathed, shaking his head. “This is not how I wanted to find this man.”
Welcome back! If you missed last week's post, this month I am answering a series of questions about my next novel, "In the Cards"! It's a supernatural mystery with a good dose of humor and a lot of heart.
If you subscribe to my newsletter this week, you'll receive a short story which takes place ten years before the novel and gives you a decent introduction to one of its three heroes, Ral O'Dailigh. What's better than free stories? Now, on to the questions!
Share a favorite line from your WIP about a character.
Beatrice was pretty certain this was the first time she’d been befriended by force. Something about the sheer amount of energy June held was encouraging, rather than overwhelming.
Share a favorite piece of description from your WIP.
Like a cathedral's arch, the oak paneling of the door pointed at the top, framing a thick, marbled and frosted pane of orange glass. The light of a fireplace within came through the windows, sending warped patterns of warm light rippling over the brick walls of the tower.
Share a favorite piece of dialogue from your WIP.
“It’s cool,” the cashier droned, meeting Beatrice’s eyes over the top of her book. “Every few days I lock June and Ral in an alternate plane of existence and take over the store. I’m slowly building my power threshold so that I can eventually take over the world. But now that you know that, I’m going to have to…”
“Kill me,” Beatrice said, knowing a practical joke when she heard one.
“Nah, that’s too James Bond. I was thinking I might keep you in my basement until it’s time to feed my ravenous zombie army in training.” She cracked a bright smile, marked her spot, and stuck out her hand. “I’m April."
Share a favorite line about emotion from your WIP.
Pity threaded through Ral’s anger as the silence stretched between them.
What scene did you delete, despite loving anyway?
There was a flashback of Ral's uncle, Duncan, bringing him to meet the man he worked for. It's the scene that contains the descriptive line I used above. I really, really wanted to show how close Ral and his uncle were, but putting the scene where it was slowed things down, and there were other opportunities to show their relationship. The tower still makes an appearance, but saving its approach for a more dramatic moment seemed a better choice.
Share a piece of feedback which made you smile.
Most of my feedback so far has come in the form of Likes & Retweets on my #2bitTues lines. I did receive a comment on an excerpt I shared on my Facebook page, though: "I love it! So much detail: I can picture exactly where he is."
How do you want your target audience to be affected by this story?
I know that when I look for books, there is a certain feeling I'm in search of, a certain experience that mirrors and expands on something I've already read or seen. Sometimes, when I can't find the book that has that feeling, I write it.
I'd like fans of supernatural fiction to think that "In The Cards" is that new novel that feels familiar. I hope that it scratches that "genre itch" in just the right spot.
This week marks the first in a series entries inspired by an author event on Twitter, conceptualized and run by Bethany Jennings (@simmeringmind). She came up with 31 prompts for writers to answer about their current Work-In-Progress, and I thought it would be a fun way to share a little more about In the Cards. Since I am already using #2bitTues to spread the word about the book on Twitter, I thought the prompts would make equally interesting blog posts. Without further ado, here are this week's prompts!
1. Describe your story as _______ meets _______.
"How I Met Your Mother" meets John Saul's "Blackstone Chronicles".
2. Why do you love your protagonist?
I love Ral because he's just so black-and-white that you want to pat him on the head, give him a cookie, and then thump him on the side of the head. He's sweet, he wants to see the best in people ... but his most endearing characteristic is what constantly bites him back.
3. Which side character do you love, and why?
Oh, no. This is tough, because every character is special to me. I have a very soft spot for the mortician, Dr. Jon Knight, because he's my wild card... but I have to say that for In the Cards, the Best Supporting Character role goes to Crowley. Shrewd readers will recognize him from my first novel... under another name, of course (he has many). I love him because he has an instinct for knowing which buttons to push on people, and is that sort of gleeful jerk that you can't help liking, in a grudging sort of way.
4. Why do you love your antagonist?
Ohh ... you want me to spoil that for you? I'm terribly sorry, but I can't do that. I will tell you that they are in my list of my top five characters ever created ... and Aviario's list tops two hundred. I love this character because of their complexity: they're an iceberg, and you only see the very slightest tip of that iceberg in In the Cards. I look forward to lowering the water level on them for you, over time...
5. You hope someday your book gets a review that says ...
"The individual story lines weave themselves together like something by Joss Whedon."
6. Which character would you be best friends with, and why?
I almost considered saying that June Slovich was my favorite side character, until I remembered I could use this prompt to gush about her. Her store, The Balefires, is the heart and soul of the story ... to the point that her group of friends has dubbed themselves "The Fire Gang". She's got her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars, and is the sort of balanced, enthusiastic friend I feel everyone needs in their lives. She dresses like Cyndi Lauper going through a Goth phase, paints murals, reads auras, and never fails to tell it like it is.
(There MIGHT be another reason they call themselves that...)
7. What was the very first idea or inspiration you had for this WIP?
This deserves a two-part answer. The first official inhabitant of Aviario, Dr. Paul Feistus, makes his debut as a side character in this book. I wouldn't say I'd be best friends with him, but he's very dear to my heart, and another of my top five characters. His inspiration came from ... er ... well ... my long and sordid early days dabbling in fan-fiction. He wasn't always human, but when I decided to write my own tales, he evolved, and the town of Aviario followed him almost immediately. I just ... didn't know what to do with it. Which brings us to part two:
The plot of In the Cards came from a tarot reading: the same exact reading that one character receives from another toward the beginning of the novel. I had just started teaching myself how to read tarot, and was laying out a spread in the midst of a towering thunderstorm, during a blackout, by candlelight. (If the cliche fits, have fun with it, I say!) The cards I drew seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with me, or with the question I wanted answers to ... so I began trying to figure out what they could mean. Almost instantly, I realized they told a story of an over-confident person who was in over their head, while someone else was trying to take advantage of their naivete. The story has undergone a lot of changes in terms of plot and character since that first reading fifteen years ago, but I owe this novel - and every other one in the series - to that hour I spent sitting on the basement floor in the dark.
That's all for now - I'll see you all next week with a little more insight!
Since this week's theme is "First Line of a Scene or Chapter", I have two pieces to share, simply because I couldn't make up my mind. Both are from In the Cards, coming in September.
June shoved the door of her car shut with her hip and hoisted her bag up onto her shoulder. “Crowley!” She barked, jogging up the sidewalk toward the Balefires. “How many times have I asked you not to burn one while you're loitering outside my store?”
He took a long, defiant drag of his cigarette, then flicked it onto the concrete and ground it beneath the heel of one steel-toed boot. “Duncan never had a problem with it,” he drawled.
“Duncan never lived to see you picking his nephew up once a month, either.”
Crowley scraped his bottom teeth across the traffic-cone orange paint on his thumbnail. “S'a lotta love for an old family friend.”
June took a step back between the sidewalk and the white line, squinting at him. “You know, for an old family friend, you've got one hell of an aura.”
“Like that, do ya? Picked it up in Soho, back in the sixties.”
“I think so. Tell Ral he'd better be out here on time. We've got places to be.”
“Please and thank you,” she chirped, smiling as she breezed through the door. Still grinning, she spoke through her clenched teeth as Ral turned away from taking inventory. “Your very nice family friend is outside.”
The last in a series of rimshots echoed around the tiny gymnasium of the community center. With a squeak of sneakers against the floor, Troy hustled to retrieve his ball, and wiped his forehead with the back of his free hand. He'd gone down the street to Madie's for dinner, then come to the Center to work through his lingering frustrations after his meeting with Ral. Several laps around the gym and a bevy of free shots later, he was left only with his confusion. As he crossed the court to return the ball to the cage at the end of the bleachers, Troy ran back along his train of thought.
Never mind how weird the whole magic thing is ... Ral himself was acting weird, even without it. Why the hell did he run out of there? If only I knew who this friend of his was. I wonder if it was the guy he was talking to, before we went down the trail. He took off like a shot, too.... maybe that's what I'll go ask June, instead.
The back of his throat was parched, and Troy leant down to take a drink from the worn bubbler near the locker room doors. The water trickled down the basin in tiny lines, splitting and rejoining each other on the way to the drain. Lines, he thought. Like he ones he was telling me about. Even if the whole thing is a fish story, it's a popular enough one for someone to use as a pattern... why didn't I pick up on that while I was there? As he went back into the locker room to throw on the spare jeans and chambray shirt he'd brought in from the back seat of the cruiser, Troy hoped that the crude diagram Ral had sketched for him still remained on the path.
As the New Year is upon us, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking: not about goals and resolutions, but about progress. A lot can happen in a year, especially when you’re an author. I have a friend who started out the year scribbling between customers at a retail job, and now she’s proudly freelancing enough articles to work from home and focus on her own writing. Another friend is set to self-publish her first novella this February … and of course, this past fall saw the publishing of From the Desk of Buster Heywood and the completion of the first draft of In The Cards.
More than that, I’ve grown to be part of an amazing community of writers on Twitter: writers who hold one another up and cheer through every victory, no matter how small (finding just the right word) and provide support in the face of hardship, no matter how large (a precious baby girl’s medical bills). If there is one thing that 2015 has proven to me, it is that authors can do anything… and most of us do it for very little or nothing at all, in between what my friend Gracie calls the #JobToSurvive. It’s a precarious balance to keep, for sure … and if you ever find yourself weighed down by it, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll just point you toward groups like The WANA Tribe and the #2bitTues Twitter crew, and we’ll keep you afloat.
As a fitting end to the year, I thought I’d close 2015 with a little giveaway! If you sign up for my newsletter before the end of the year, you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of “Writer With A Day Job” by Aine Greaney. It’s an awesome book with a lot of tips, hints, and exercises that are helpful no matter what your #JobToSurvive might be.
Just click here to sign up, and I’ll add your name to the list. A winner will be chosen via Random.org's list generator and notified via email on Saturday, January 2nd. Good luck, and happy writing!
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